Identifying Sand and Grain Conditions

By Bill Herrfeldt

golf ball at address
The average golfer in the U.S. scores about 100, but if he paid more attention to the grain on the greens, and the sand in the traps, he could save about five strokes per round. That is especially true when the greens are covered with Bermuda grass, because the grain can materially affect the direction of a putt. Also, different sand conditions call for different ways to approach shots. You can cut your score if you know about grain and the condition of the sand. Interested? Read on.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy
  1. When in a sand trap, dig down into the sand with your feet. By doing so, you learn a lot about the consistency of the sand, which will give you clues about how to hit the shot. For example, if the sand is wet, it will likely be more compacted, so the ball will go farther than if the sand were dry. Don't forget that when you are faced with a short bunker shot, you will hit the sand first so the sand will propel the golf ball, not the club face. So for those shots, hit the ball with less force. And never attempt to chip out of wet sand. The margin for error is simply too great.
  2. Find a practice sand trap if you are playing a course you haven't played before, because sand can be different on different courses. For example, you will learn if the sand on the course is fluffy or coarse and if the sand traps have a lot of sand or bare earth. You can get a leg up on your playing partners if you know more about the local conditions than they do.
  3. Realize that the grain of the grass you find on golf-course greens is the direction that the blades are growing and that it can affect the direction of your ball. Several factors contribute to grain. First, grass blades tend to grow toward the setting sun. They are also affected by prevailing winds and the sources of drainage on the greens. Another clue as to the grain of the grass is to locate the brown or sunburned area of the green because grass tends to lean in that direction. Finally, greens with Bermuda grass are more likely to be "grainy" than are those with Bent grass.
  4. Compensate for a putt that is going down hill with the grain because it will be faster than normal. You should simply hit the ball a bit more softly by either making believe that the hole is closer than it actually is or by hitting the ball more on the toe of the putter. Conversely, if you are hitting a putt against the grain and it is uphill to the hole, hit the ball harder to make up for the grain.

About the Author

Bill Herrfeldt specializes in finance, sports and the needs of retiring people, and has been published in the national edition of "Erickson Tribune," the "Washington Post" and the "Arizona Republic." He graduated from the University of Louisville.